When it comes to root veggies parsnips are the most underrated of them all. Native to the Mediterranean, this taproot which was introduced to the Americas in 1609 predated potatoes by nearly 100 years, and was cultivated from the wild.
Closely related to carrots, parsley, and dill, which are all part of the Aplacene family, parsnips have a sweet, nutty flavor with smooth skin and fine-grained flesh, which can actually grow up to 1 foot in length or even a bit longer. Parsnips are rich in antioxidants and are a great source of potassium, folate, dietary fiber, and vitamin C.
Interestingly, the colder the weather the better they will be because the parsnips have a very unique flavor which comes from their starches changing to sugars once it reaches lower temperatures. Usually, this happens after the first frost so all those gardeners out there don't forget to get them planted in the late fall.
One cool fact about parsnips is that they used to be used as a sweetener in Europe before the arrival of cane sugar. You can actually make parsnip ice cream, by cooking them in milk and sugar until tender, pureeing, straining, then adding to your ice cream base. Other cooking methods are sauteing, oven roasting, grilling, or boiling until tender, adding some butter, cream, or milk, and making a mash of them. But, my favorite way is to make chips, here is my recipe, enjoy!
Serves 4 people
1.5-2 quarts vegetable oil or pure peanut oil
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
Salt to taste
10-15 rosemary flowers, optional
Take a peeler, peel off wide noodle-shaped strips. Continue to rotate and peel parsnips to try and keep the slices around the same size. No need to peel any of the outer layers of skin. Place on a plate and put to the side.
In a large pot or dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat to 325-350F (if it starts smoking is too hot).
Gently add a small handful of parsnips to the oil, stirring gently, until light golden brown and crisp, around 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove chips from oil using a spider or slotted spoon to drain excess oil and transfer to cooling rack or plate with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary and repeat the process. Adjust the heat to maintain oil temperature while frying.
Garnish with flowers and enjoy.
Pro Tip: If you don't want to fry your chips you can bake them. Single-layer the peels or slices on a sheet tray, drizzle a little oil on them and bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until light golden brown.
Also, here in California rosemary is just about everywhere. Pick a few flowers and taste them, they have a mild rosemary flavor and are slightly sweet, they make a beautiful and tasty garnish.
Photos by Julia Quintero